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Duke looks to improve upon 2011 season

Improved results are always the goal for Duke athletes, but after such a successful 2011 season, this year, that goal will be hard to achieve.

The Blue Devils are coming off one of their most outstanding track seasons ever, during which two athletes, sophomore Tanner Anderson and senior Curtis Beach, managed to qualify for this year’s United States Olympic Trials, and senior Juliet Bottorff became Duke’s first-ever NCAA champion during the outdoor season. Many other athletes also broke school records during both the indoor and outdoor seasons and together, the team collectively broke the record for the amount of athletes to qualify for the NCAA championships during those seasons.

“In 2011 we had probably our best year ever,” director of Track and Field Norm Ogilvie said. “We produced multiple All-Americans, we won a gold, silver and a bronze medal at the NCAA outdoor meet, we won IC4A’s and ECAC team titles for the first time…. A lot of great things happened.”

Last year, good senior leadership seemed to play a key role in transforming those “great things” from goals to achievements. Even though those seniors are gone, however, both Ogilvie and his athletes are confident that with returners such as Bottorff, Anderson and senior All-American Cydney Ross, repeating or even exceeding last year’s success is an attainable goal. Some of these returners, like junior Madeline Morgan—the only member of the women’s cross country team to qualify for the NCAA Championship meet—have already shown themselves capable of living up to these expectations. Others, like Beach, find themselves heading into the season with the potential to secure another NCAA title for the Duke program.

Despite those lofty goals, Beach and Anderson are two athletes with an even bigger dream in mind—qualifying for the Olympics.

“Because I’m the top returning athlete this year, [an NCAA individual decathlon title] is almost an implied goal,” Beach said. “It’s expected that that would be a goal. But another goal that I have… is that I qualified for the Olympic Trials and there’s an outside chance that I can possibly make a run for the Olympic team. And that’s the most exciting part.”

So exciting, in fact, that Beach mentioned the possibility of forgoing an appearance at the NCAA Championships in order to focus on qualifying for the Olympics.

But those considerations will take place much farther along in the season. Right now, the Blue Devils are looking forward to starting their schedule Friday at the Tar Heel Opener. Thirty-six Blue Devils, 18 of which are freshmen, will travel to Chapel Hill and give an indication of their potential.

“We’ll be looking at the freshmen,” Ogilvie said, “and we’ll also be taking a look at a lot of the sprinters and multi-event athletes. Curtis Beach is certainly one of the stars of the team and he’ll be competing in multiple events this weekend. Some of the young people that have come in will be very, very good on both the men’s and the women’s side.”

Overall, it seems that the team is ready to make history this year. The competition may be tougher and their goals may be higher, but both the athletes and their coaches are determined to live up to last year’s performance.

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